Chapter 136 – Raising a Big Cat in the Apocalypse (15)
Presumably because the injury had affected his mood, Chi Xiaochi dreamed again that night.
In his dream, he and Lou Ying were feeding the dog at the eastern corner of the tube-shaped apartment building.
It was an afternoon in July. The sun was so hot that it made one’s back feel numb and itchy. Chi Xiaochi sucked on half of a salt water popsicle and held Lou Ying’s bowl in his other hand. Inside the bowl were beef strips that Lou Ying had made that noon, mixed in with hot rice. The fragrant smell a.s.saulted the nose.
The little yellow dog loved this kind of hearty meal very much. It ate eagerly, obviously enjoying itself.
Chi Xiaochi took the opportunity to call out to it, “Dog Meat.”
Dog Meat found time to whine once in response despite its preoccupation with the food.
Chi Xiaochi turned to Lou Ying and said, “Look, he’s happy that I call it Dog Meat.”
Lou Ying looked at the half-grown youth helplessly. “It’s because you’re feeding it. If you called it Maimai, it would also…”
Dog Meat seemed to have heard someone calling its name and easily called out again, “Ao.”
Chi Xiaochi: “Wow, it’s so heartless. No more food for you.”
He tried to s.n.a.t.c.h away the food, but Dog Meat sensed that that the situation wasn’t good and stuffed its face into the bowl to swallow down a few large bites.
Chi Xiaochi had only been playing with him. He lifted up the bowl, tilting it towards it so that the blind little yellow dog could eat more smoothly and easily.
He maintained this posture, his eyes squinting as he smiled at Lou Ying.
But an even taller figure appeared unexpectedly from behind Lou Ying, almost engulfing Lou Ying in their shadow.
The man’s face wasn’t very clear because of the backlight, but his tone was very gentle, “Xiaochi, you’re feeding the dog again?”
Chi Xiaochi stood up with the bowl in his arms, his eyes darting towards Lou Ying very quickly as though he’d done something wrong. “… Teacher Zhu.”
The person he addressed as Teacher Zhu was about 40 or 50 years old. He was tall, and he had an elegant appearance. He wore a pair of black-rimmed gla.s.ses and was carrying some cheap daily necessities in one hand.
His att.i.tude towards Chi Xiaochi was very gentle, “When will you come over in the afternoon? At the usual time?”
Chi Xiaochi tried to answer as concisely as possible, “Yes, three o’clock.”
Teacher Zhu replied, “Don’t forget to bring your junior two math book. We’ll be talking about functions today.”
Chi Xiaochi: “Okay.”
After Teacher Zhu left, Lou Ying watched his back for a long time, frowning slightly.
Chi Xiaochi was so nervous that his fingers itched. He rubbed them back and forth against the seams of his pants, and instead of looking at Lou Ying, he crouched down and continued to feed Dog Meat from the bowl.
Half a beat later, he finally heard Lou Ying’s voice, “Are you receiving tutoring from him now?”
Chi Xiaochi quietly let out a ‘yeah’.
Lou Ying looked at his nervous and tense appearance, and reached out to ruffle his hair.
After waiting for a long time and finding that Lou Ying really didn’t seem to plan to ask any further, Chi Xiaochi became the one who couldn’t remain calm anymore. “… Why aren’t you asking about it?”
Lou Ying: “Asking about what?”
“My parents are the ones who want me to go to Teacher Zhu for tutoring. … They won’t let me find you for that.” Chi Xiaochi felt really guilty. He knocked the tips of his toes repeatedly against the yellow dirt that had been roasted until it softened.
Chi Xiaochi set down the bowl with a bang.
Dog Meat stopped chewing in shock. Its gla.s.sy eyes turned blankly, unable to see what had happened with its two food-providing masters. It could only stand where it was, wagging its bald tail. Only when it discovered that the food bowl was still there did it follow the scent and carefully continue to lick at the bottom of the bowl, searching for the beef-flavored grains of rice.
Lou Ying looked at Chi Xiaochi, who was now in a huff, and just found it funny, his heart softening.
He’d always treated this child like his younger brother.
He said, “Feed it properly. Don’t scare Maimai.”
Chi Xiaochi was unhappy. “I’m not feeding it any more.”
Without waiting for Lou Ying to say anything else, Chi Xiaochi grew agitated first. “… What gives them the right?”
A few days ago, something had happened with Lou Ying.
He had a good relationship with Boss Huang from the nearby waste station. The boss would bring some electronic products that he’d picked up while collecting waste to Lou Ying for repairs. The TV set in Boss Huang’s house, and the red and white NES that his son played were all second-hand goods that Lou Ying had fixed up. Of course, he didn’t ask Lou Ying to do it for nothing. If there was something he didn’t need, he would give it to Lou Ying.
Boss Huang had opened up a small shop that sold second-hand electrical appliances. It was stocked up with semiconductors, small game machines, hairdryers, fans, heaters, speakers, MP3 players, and so on that had all been repaired at Lou Ying’s hands. Boss Huang provided him with everything that was required for the repairs, and they split the money they earned 30/70.
For Lou Ying, this was in part because he loved machinery and wanted to practice, and also because of personal reasons. He was living under someone else’s roof, so it was better if he had his own source of income to make things less troublesome for his aunt’s family.
He’d always been careful with money, and summing up the wages he earned from working in the pet shop and hardware store along with the other various side businesses he’d developed in private, the a.s.set acc.u.mulation in his books had even exceeded that of some of the middle-aged residents of the tube-shaped apartments.
It was precisely because of his own small savings that he could take Chi Xiaochi out to play and let him eat two ice cream cones at a time.
However, half a month ago, Lou Ying had put a freshly repaired radio on the windowsill. It had attracted the attention of Aunt Chu, who lived in the same building.
… That was the radio that she’d thrown away a month ago.
Who knew if she’d forgotten that she’d thrown it away, or if she was angry that Lou Ying was making money off of things that she’d thrown away, but she started claiming everywhere that Lou Ying might look well-behaved, but he would steal other people’s things to sell them for money.
Of course, she also expressed understandingly that Lou Ying was a child who hadn’t had parents from a young age and had n.o.body to teach him better. It was very normal for him to like taking other people’s things.
This rumor caused quite a lot of trouble for Lou Ying after it spread.
Lou Ying’s aunt was busy earning money to support her family, and Lou Ying was a child who didn’t like to cause trouble for others, so she’d always been quite unconcerned regarding her nephew.
However, the side effect of being ‘unconcerned’ was a lack of understanding.
After fighting with her husband, she went to Lou Ying and asked him to go and throw out all those ‘nonsense’ things. In the future, he shouldn’t casually take other people’s things.
Lou Ying only returned the radio and didn’t apologize. At the same time, he also provided a receipt written by Boss Huang, proving that it was trash from the waste station.
His character had always been gentle, and he didn’t have any intention of making Aunt Chu look bad in public. He just hinted to her with the receipt that she’d been the one to discard the radio, and asked her to please pay attention to her wording.
But Aunt Chu had been infuriated, and the gossip about Lou Ying spread even more fiercely.
There were only three floors in the tube-shaped apartments, and rumor spread through it within half a day. The rumors about Lou Ying stealing became more and more outrageous, and Chi Xiaochi’s parents also heard it. At the dinner table, they asked Chi Xiaochi to play less with thieves, because no matter how good his academic performance was, his morals were bad and he couldn’t be saved.
Chi Xiaochi, who’d heard the rumors, was so angry that he threw aside his chopsticks, stopping just short of rolling up his sleeves and charging over to find the Chu family.
It just so happened that Lou Ying had been about to bring over the textbook that Chi Xiaochi had left at his home and cut him off halfway.
After asking him where he was going, Lou Ying wrapped an arm around Chi Xiaochi’s waist and held his shoulders, quickly taking him up to the top floor.
After putting him back down, Lou Ying advised him, “Don’t make trouble. At the end of the day, it’s just a radio.”
Chi Xiaochi pushed at his shoulders out of anger, “No way! I’m going to go find her! This matter isn’t over!”
Lou Ying held him again. Seeing that he couldn’t control him, he could only hold him in his arms and stroke the back of his neck, coaxing him softly, “Alright, alright, don’t be angry. Look, even I’m not angry.”
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Chi Xiaochi was so angry that he burst into tears. “No way!”
He stuffed the chocolate into Chi Xiaochi’s chest pocket skillfully, just like he’d done it countless times before. “Eight o’clock in the evening, on the roof. I’ll wait for you.”
Chi Xiaochi opened his eyes in reality.
He fixed his eyes on the ceiling in the darkness. He was a little dazed.
061 noticed that he’d woken up, “Xiaochi?”
Chi Xiaochi’s voice was hoa.r.s.e as he asked out of the blue, “… Is it eight o’clock yet?”
“It’s only three.” 061 replied, “Why don’t you get some more sleep?”
The tone of 061’s speech matched the voice he’d heard in his dreams. For a moment, Chi Xiaochi was stunned and even subconsciously reached up to touch his chest pocket. Finding that it was empty brought a stabbing pain through his chest.
He thought, my chocolate is gone.
The beating of his frenzied heart drummed against his injured ribs, but it gradually subsided with the pa.s.sage of time.
Chi Xiaochi turned over and hugged the sleeping leopard. He tried to find the feeling of holding Dog Meat from his dreams.
061 seemed to sense something. He asked, “What did you dream of?”
061 stilled. This name was really unfamiliar to his ears, “Who?”
“You don’t know him.” Chi Xiaochi buried his face against his Boss’s stomach, rubbing against it comfortably before saying calmly, “He’s the first person I killed.”
He didn’t remember the personal details that had happened in Chi Xiaochi’s life.
However, he also knew that now wasn’t the time to get to the bottom of it, so he asked, “Do you want to watch a movie?”
Chi Xiaochi grew energized. “Yeah, sure.”
One person and one system started watching a movie on the screen. In the middle of the movie, the leopard woke up for a while, sniffing at Chi Xiaochi twice before falling back asleep beside him.
After the two hour movie was finished, Chi Xiaochi calculated that the time was about right and got up to wash up.
Just as he placed a hot towel on his face, the sound of hasty footsteps came in from outside, along with Sun Yan’s low but anxious voice, “What are you doing, Vice-captain Gu?” There was also a fierce knocking at the door.
Chi Xiaochi put the towel back on the towel rack, then went to the door and pulled back the bolt.
Gu Xinzhi practically fell inside, but the gaze he locked on Chi Xiaochi was like a wolf’s, terrifying and with a hint of green light. It made people’s scalps feel numb when they saw it.
Chi Xiaochi’s att.i.tude was mild. He said to Sun Yan, “Wait outside for a bit.”
Although he was puzzled, Sun Yan’s nature of obeying orders had him going out and closing the door behind him, keeping guard outside. After all, from what he’d seen, Gu Xinzhi’s psychological state seemed very concerning.
After the others had left, Gu Xinzhi pinched his own arm, his voice holding forcibly suppressed ecstasy and trembling, “Qiuyun, is it really you?”
Chi Xiaochi instantly entered Ding Qiuyun’s ident.i.ty.
In other words, it was the ident.i.ty of Ding Qiuyun who’d ‘rebirthed’ and remembered everything that had happened in his previous life.
He sat down beside the bed, stroking Boss’s tail with one hand as he calmly replied to Gu Xinzhi’s neurotic question with one of his own, “What do you think?”
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